Against the Folkish “Pagans”

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There is a Folkish problem in Paganism. The Folkish are an inane sect of deplorables who take on a “racialist” attitude towards religion, who have all the time in the world to chatter nonsense about their ancestry and blood, but none for theology and religious practice. These racists pose a threat that is potentially ruinous to our work because of how they will appropriate anything of value, ruin it, and then simply move on when they’re done with it. This article shall demonstrate how these vulgar imbeciles are, in truth, not even Polytheists nor Pagans at all, but rather merely bigoted LARPers playing dress-up.

 

Folkish “Paganism” is Reductionist

One thing is overwhelmingly clear: Folkish people do not actually believe in the Gods. They hold a “metagenetic” or “racialist” view of the divine which attempts to posit that the divine limit Their interactions with “foreigners” outside of “the race.” This worldview can be adequately understood as atheism by its materialist reductionism, which attempts to reduce the number and kinds of entities countenanced as real— securing a multiplicity of Gods ontologically through a base materialism which reduces the Gods to merely archetypes of “the race.” This ridiculously binds the Gods as subject to a materialist social construct developed by imperialists during the Colonial era, dating to the early Age of Enlightenment and beginning of industrial slavery, far after many of the very same powers destroyed the various polytheisms of the ancient world. This denies that the Gods are real, independently existing entities with agencies of Their own who may engage in personal relations with people outside their ethnicity, and is thus inconsistent with polytheism. The Folkish hold this position because they do not believe that there is anything to the Gods except for customs and ethnicity, and thus do not believe the Gods are capable of actions independent of their own ethnicity.

In asserting this, the Folkish engage in a transgression against the divine: hubris. By actively denying the all-powerfulness of the immortal Gods and trying to limit them as bounded to “the race,” the Folkish display a desire to substitute their human judgment over that of the Gods. Their doubt of the interaction of certain people with the Gods is as though they think that they have the right to tell the Gods who they should interact with and how. This objectifies the Gods and leads to Folkish types treating the Living Immortals as though they mere cultural trinkets. However, the Gods are not mere culture nor objects which can be appropriated– They are real, living and eternal Beings who may reveal Themselves to and call upon whomever they like to worship Them, and thus They cannot be appropriated. Theophany and hierophany are significant reasons for why people outside of certain regions would worship deities who were “foreign” to them. To deny religious experience and denounce true devotion, especially when that deity has asked for it and initiated the personal relation with the devotee, is simply atheism. So who are you to decide who the Gods choose to impart with knowledge of them?

There is an impiety in keeping somebody out of a Pagan religious tradition for political reasons. That the Gods exist means that they can do or say something “different than you expected, different than what you believe, different than what you might wish to say in Their names” (EPButler, 17 September 2018 1:22 PM). So you can be sure that if a God does not want a particular worshiper that They will expel them Themselves. They do not need you doing it for Them, and if you’re taking for granted that They do, then you’d best be wary of your own personal connection with Them and not everybody else’s. For the God you are at the most risk of drifting from, “hands down…, is the God to Whom you are closest, but take for granted” (EPButler, 16 September 2018 1:57 PM).

 

Pagan Religions cannot be Culturally Appropriated

As stated, the Gods cannot be appropriated. But what about the particular cultural systems of worship centered around the divine which Pagans engage in? Sometimes, Folkish types will try to appropriate the rhetoric of indigenous groups around the world who stand against cultural appropriation— trying to claim that “outsiders” (usually subjective, but typically excludes people of colour) should not enter or partake in Pagan religious traditions because doing so would be “cultural appropriation” in the same vain as someone encroaching on the closed space of an Indigenous American people would be.

Sure, Pagan religions and cultures are often appropriated in popular media (e.g., the disrespect towards the Gods and ancient traditions during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece with their mascots, or that Gods-awful TV series Vikings). But not all appropriation is cultural appropriation. The problem with claiming that ancient traditions can be culturally appropriated is that these religions and the cultures have been dead for centuries, and thus cannot be culturally appropriated. Pagan religious movements which revive broken traditions are not on par with unbroken Indigenous traditions. While Indigenous traditions around the world have been brutalized and colonized by European powers yet still manage to survive in unbroken religious traditions, contemporary Paganism attempts to revive traditions from the ground up centuries after these cultures have been destroyed. There is no host country for these cultures or religions, even if there are contemporary cultures which descend from or populate the regions of once-existing dead pre-Christian ones, as they have been thoroughly washed by the new religions which came to dominate their areas. Sure, there are cultural artifacts or even direct religious practices which can remain in some of these cultures and countries, but the prior has been decontextualized (e.g., remains of the Partheon) and the latter has been thoroughly washed by the new religion which came to dominate the culture and recontextualized (e.g., the practice of dedicating imagery of the part of the body that need healing which were originally offerings to Asklepios being reassigned to Mary), and assimilation to the culture will not acclimate one to the religion. Connecting to contemporary Greece, with Orthodox Christianity as its state religion, will not inherently lead one to practicing Hellenism. Connecting to contemporary Germany, which is mixed Protestant and Catholic, will not inherently lead one to worshiping Woden. Connecting to contemporary Egypt, which is a predominantly Arab-state practicing Sunni Islam, will not inherently lead one to praising Ptah.

Yes, one might feel a deeper connection to a certain religion if they come from a particular cultural background (e.g., a person of Latin background, say Portuguese, connecting better to the Religio Romana). But simultaneously, religions such as Christianity or Islam have thoroughly become embedded in these cultures, and their hold is anything but tenuous. It is all pervasive, and part of reviving ancient traditions involves things like moving past the baggage that everyone has as a result of being raised in the society they were raised in because let’s face it, no one is raised within a vacuum. Because the majority of Pagans are converts coming from Abrahamic faiths, they will thus begin with many presumptions about religion which derive from their society. If one thinks that there is an easy way back to the Old World’s religious traditions by connecting with contemporary cultures, then that person has clearly never actually engaged in Pagan religions.

 

Pagan Religions are both Ethnic and Universal

In the Greek New Testament, those who ascribe to pre-Christian religions are called ta ethnē, “the nations” (Luke 24:47, Matthew 25:32, Matthew 28:19). As such, religions of “the nations” were deemed ethnikos, as pertaining to a nation, in opposition to Christianity’s katholikos, meaning “catholic” or “universal.” In English translations of the New Testament, the word ethnē often gets translated as “Gentiles,” and in Latin “Paganus,” or Pagan, which comes from the word pagus, “district,” and thus relating to the idea of nationhood. This essentially posited the “one universal Christian faith” against a multiplicity of “ethnic” religions. This does not, however, mean that Pagan religions were closed traditions. On quite the contrary, ancient polytheisms were universal traditions which, although they may have originated in one geographic territory, had a tendency to spread into other regions and become part of that area’s culture.

The actual issue was not that Christianity’s universalism purported itself as holding a universal truth for all peoples, but that it purported itself as an exclusivist, sole path to salvation, and actively rejected and denied the legitimacy of other paths to the divine, especially from long-standing traditions, as being false and abhorrent. This is what was antithetical to the undeniable pluralistic and diverse nature of ancient Pagan religions. The ancient world was, after all, fairly cosmopolitan. We can hardly say that something like Graeco-Roman civilization, which built a temple dedicated to the Egyptian Goddess Isis on the far-away Celtic lands of Britain, was anything but incredibly pluralistic and diverse. The ancient Germanic tribes are another clear example of an ancient peoples becoming well-accustomed to elements of foreign cultures. This is variously seen with the Swedish Viking ruling class of the Kievan Rus, how many different members of tribes such as the Batavi, Saxons, Goths, and Cherusci (among many others) would frequently become Foederati within the Roman military and adopt Roman cults and styles of dress, the intermingling and intermarriage of native Britons and Anglo-Saxons, with early Saxon cemeteries having both bodies from continental Europe and bodies native to the Isles buried in them, and the substantial overlap between Germanic peoples and the Gauls nearest to the Rhine. The Suebi are such an example, with Suebic chieftans Maroboduus and Ariovistus having Gallic names, with the latter speaking fluent Gallic (Gaius Iulius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico 1.47), as well as the Franks, who took up many elements of Gallo-Roman culture.

While the translation of the Greek word ethnos does have a connotation as pertaining to a nation, sometimes even being used to refer to a tribe, these do not have the same connotation as a “nation-state,” let alone “race,” both of which are very modern social constructs that developed many centuries following the extinction of the ancient religions. The latter especially developed quite recently among European imperialists during the Colonial era, dating from the early Enlightenment and beginning of industrial slavery, multiple centuries after many of the same powers destroyed the numerous polytheistic traditions of the ancient world. It is out of touch with reality to believe that the many different ethnic groups populating parts of Europe (Graeco-Romans, Celts, Germanics, Illyrians, etc.,) would have recognized themselves as part of the same people, let ago have seen eye-to-eye with each other, based on an anachronistic idea of “whiteness” which only developed multiple centuries later. If the ancient world cared about someone’s race, then it would have been very unlikely that the Romans would have had Septimius Severus, a Roman who was half-Italic on his mother’s side and half-Punic and Berber on his father’s side, as their Emperor for almost two decades. There is no such thing as a “white gene,” “brown gene,” or a “black gene,” and what we consider to be “racial” is merely an observation of physical attributes that can change over time. To think the ancient world, let alone the Gods, would care is simply delirious.

Rather, the Greek term ethnos means a community of people held together by a common ethos— meaning they share in culture, customs, language, and religion, rather than about anything remotely similar to contemporary notions of “race.” So sure, if one is called to by a God or even simply wishes to participate in these religions, then necessary respect and acknowledgement must be given to the culture that the God created, and one well ought to be interested in learning as much as they can about it. This does not, however, merely come from birth. No, this comes from work. This is a clear understanding from the ancient world, as the divine Emperor Julian tells us: “though my family [the Constantinian dynasty] is Thracian, [I] am a Greek in my habits,” or in other words, logos displaces genos (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 501). Being a Hellene, or any practitioner of a Pagan religion, does not designate a people (genos), but a mindset (logoi) (Libanios, Or. II.184) (Kaldellis 2011, 54). One becomes part of a Pagan religion (such as Hellenism) because they share in a culture which was attained through education (such as paideia), rather than “common stock (physis)” (Elm 2012, 378-379). Indeed, while these religions are ethnic because they originated with a group of people, ancient religions are at the same time katholikos, or universal, because by their very nature they reflect the reality and universal principles of the Cosmos itself.

 

On the name “Folkish”

The Folkish will often hide the fact that they are racist through their name, insisting that they are simply trying to “preserve culture and traditions.” The problem with this claim is that the Folkish movement is as much of an “ancient tradition” as Wicca. It’s actually quite young, spawning from the romantic nationalist Völkisch movement, a product of 19th and turn of the 20th century Germany that built itself on romanticized misunderstanding of the ancient world, which included the anachronistic contemporary notion of race which the Folkish like to parade themselves on. The very claim of trying to “preserve culture” is a racist dogwhistle disguising itself as a conservation effort. As already stated, these ancient traditions have effectively been dead for centuries, so the entire point of “preserving traditional culture” is erroneous.

By associating the racist Folkish movement with folk traditions, what they’re actually doing is producing an intentional confusing of terms and symbols— a common tactic used by white supremacists, seen when the Nazis themselves did it by calling themselves socialist. By trying to conflate and redefine themselves as synonymous with actual traditional folk culture, they present themselves as protecting the “culture, morality, spirituality, philosophical practices, and beliefs of our ancestors” as an attempt to legitimize themselves by putting on an ostensible presentation of an older, “more authentic” image. This initial confusion is often how people get suckered into the Folkish movement in the first place. In essence, Folkish movements began to refer to themselves as such because confusing Folkish and folk traditions is exactly what they would like you to do.

 

Pagan Religions are God-centric, not ancestor-centric

I want to establish that in no way am I dismissing ancestor veneration. It’s a practice that is prevalent in many Pagan religious traditions, and plays a strong significance in the Religio Romana. However, Folkish types will often claim that the core of Paganism and polytheism is about “tribe and ancestors.” There is a few problems to this. Firstly, though some Pagan religions may have a kind of focus on a tribe, such as Germanic polytheism, the ancient concept of a tribe is very unrelated to the very contemporary notion of a “nation-state,” which many Folkish types will try to extrapolate the concept to anachronistically. Secondly, their tone-deaf description of Paganism and polytheism will always inherently fall short because it completely displaces the core of what polytheism is actually all about. The focus of polytheism, as the word implies in Greek (“polús,” meaning many, and “theós,” meaning God), is the veneration of the many living, eternal Gods. Period. We don’t seek the mediation of the Gods to worship our ancestors because ancestors are not the focus of polytheism.

 

Folkish people don’t even engage in actual ancestor veneration

For all the lip-service that the Folkish preach for ancestors, the Folkish typically have an incredibly reductionist view of what the ancestors actually are, commonly resting it on mere biological descendance. This is in contrast to the ancient world, such as in Rome, where your ancestors wouldn’t even necessarily be biological since biology was never really thought as being important. Noble families would frequently adopt males unrelated to them to follow in their footsteps, and when you were adopted into a family, you would be expected to worship that family’s ancestors. Because after all, what of people who were not raised by their biological family in any way, but instead, were raised by adoptive parents? What family’s ancestors would they even have to worship if only their biology mattered?

Folkish people will claim that minorities should refrain from joining Pagan religions because, again hearkening back to their erroneous “metagenetics” argument, people should only “worship the Gods of their ancestors.” But this argument is one of brittle bones which can be easily broken by just simply pointing out that most of their parents, let alone their ancestors for at least the past five centuries, are almost guaranteed to not have been engaged in the worship of the very same Gods that they are right now. Are those ancestors suddenly no longer of any worth? If so, that’s a pretty detestable view of one’s ancestors. But let’s play devil’s advocate and for the sake of this specious argument ignore this elephant in the room. If only biology mattered, then one can assume that they would have absolutely no problem with mixed people trying to join their traditions. But evidently, they overwhelmingly do. So how do the Folkish reconcile their worldview of biology with mixed peoples who want to enter Pagan traditions? For example, the majority of African-descendant people in the west are mixed, having European ancestry somewhere in their family tree, sometimes even being the direct result of a biracial union. But of course, most Folkish types would reject them, even though they would rarely if ever complain if someone of mixed European descent wanted to join, or even someone of a completely separate fair-skinned peoples entirely. This is because genuine ancestor veneration is not something which the Folkish even actually engage in when they play at “honouring the ancestors.” This distortion of ancestor worship that the Folkish engage in, coupled with how they relegate Gods to archetypes of “the race,” informs us that, in reality, Folkish types misuse the component of ancestor veneration in Pagan and polytheistic religions as an excuse to go all-out blood and soil. Their “ancestor veneration,” and worship in general, is merely a form of self-indulgent pomposity because all it means to them is that it “honours their great race.” Beneath the shallow dressing, they are merely worshiping the phenotype. Their religion is white people. Nothing else.

 

Pagan Religions are a result of Post-Modernism

The Folkish have this unbridled phobia of Post-Modernism, even to the point where they will use it as a buzzword against detractors, despite not having any actual idea of what it is about nor its significance for contemporary polytheism. To simplify it, Post-Modernist philosophy is merely a kind of skepticism about Modernism, which is itself a philosophical movement which, by trying to simplify things and arrange them in a linear fashion out of a desire to create stories with clear beginnings and ends, argues for a straightforward progression towards truth and liberty, which gave rise to theories like whig history. When applied to religious modes of thought, Modernism would hypothesize that earlier religious modes of practice and belief are inherently more “primitive,” because they’re not in the “now,” positing that a “primitive society” would begin practicing a form of animism, which itself would give way to a “more developed” polytheism which humanizes abstract spirits, which in turn would reject the “ridiculous idea” of many Gods and cultivates into monotheism as the “pinnacle of spiritual development,” with another step sometimes included with a jump from monotheism to atheism.

Post-Modernism rebukes Modernist theories of linear human development, arguing that it doesn’t make sense as the way in which things actually happen because, much like biological evolution, what sticks in human development is not always an improvement; it is in essence random. Post-Modernism’s rejection of modernist approaches to historiography allowed for a resurrected interest in ancient paganisms which revived devotional polytheism in the west. Because of this, Post-Modernism has been in large part responsible for the reconstructionist methodology we use today in reviving these ancient religions, and that our Post-Modern culture has inspired more genuine interest in polytheism and ancient paganism than say, the romantic and Völkisch environment of turn of the 20th century Germany.

 

Conclusion

Stating the obvious: the Folkish and their rhetoric are visibly ignorant and foul. These blatant fascists are inherently violent because of how their canards incites the dehumanization and harassment of minorities by unnecessarily forcing them to validate themselves both as practitioners and as people, and inherently impious because of their flagrant atheism and hubris which objectifies the Gods and ancestors as mere trinkets who only serve to propound the short-sighted pomposity they have about their “race.” This only produces a toxic environment where the both the pious and the marginalized are left unwelcome, and as such, their hatespeech is undeserving of any audience. Their platforms in Pagan circles should be torn down, and any individuals who are espousing their abhorrent rhetoric should be barred from any and all participation in any legitimate polytheistic and/or Pagan community. Their points are not to be debated: they are to be ridiculed.

 

(Special thanks to Patrick Dunn, TheLettuceMan, Sundorwīc, Selgoworis, NewWorldNomad, Post-Modern Polytheist, and Edward Butler)

 

Bibliography

Elm, Susanna. Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church: Emperor Julian, Gregory of Nazianzus, and the Vision of Rome. University of California Press, 2012.

EPButler. Twitter Post. September 17, 2018, 6:54 AM. https://twitter.com/EPButler/status/1041686718972354561

EPButler. Twitter Post. September 16, 2018, 9:01 AM. https://twitter.com/EPButler/status/1041356516060815361

EPButler. Twitter Post. September 17 2018, 1:22 PM. https://twitter.com/EPButler/status/1041784539335610369

EPButler. Twitter Post. September 16 2018, 1:57 PM. https://twitter.com/EPButler/status/1041793303296004108

Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus, and Wilmer Cave. Wright. The works of emperor Julian. London: Heinemann etc., 1962.

Gaius Iulius Caesar. CAESAR’S COMMENTARIES. Translated by McDevitte, W. A. and Bohn, W. S. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1869

Kaldellis, Anthony. Hellenism in Byzantium: The Transformations of Greek Identity and the Reception of the Classical Tradition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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Social Justice as Serving the Gods

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“From Zeus come all beggars and strangers; and a gift is precious though small”
(Homer Odyssey, 6. 207)

There are plenty of people who, on the one hand, purport to serve the Gods and preach messages of hospitality, charity, and salvation, and on the other hand, are unwilling to extend these to the underprivileged, whether they be refugees, immigrants, the poor, minority groups, and so on. Instead of helping their fellow man, many of the so-called pious have spread hateful rhetoric and actively participate in a whole laundry list of bigotry, including but not limited to xenophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, ableism, and countless other vices, all while claiming to be devout followers of divine will. This line of double-think is, quite simply, moronic and vacuous— a product of western secularism whose state-religious apparatus has created an environment which permits such hypocrisy.

Western secularism is not truly pluralistic, despite its claims to the contrary. It has turned the concept of worship into something which is exclusively “private,“ with our religious lives being independent of and out of view from the “secular” eye of the public. This view is an artificial construct that is Protestant in nature, and inherently untenable not only for proper Hellenes and polytheists, but for all religions which hold an immanent view of the divine, where the Gods, and the practice of religion itself, penetrates aspects of even day-to-day mundane life. Religion is not merely confined within the temples— it is part of a lifestyle, and the separation currently present in western secularism is absurdly unnatural; allowing for one’s “beliefs” from their “private religious life” to blatantly contrast with their practice in everyday life to almost comical degrees. This ultimately both creates an environment where vulgar chauvinists can exist, even in otherwise explicitly pluralistic religions such as ancient polytheisms, and severely limits our service to the divine, which includes social justice, the concept which holds that all peoples have an inherent equal worth, and thus should have equal access to the same privileges and opportunities.

After all, it is detailed in the sacred Chaldean Oracles that Love (Eros) is the first creation of the heavenly father, Zeus (Chaldean Oracles, fr. 42). He then fills each divine soul with a “deep eros” to bring them back to the Gods (Chaldean Oracles, fr. 43). We can therefore understand that human life is the mirror of divine love, as far as possible. And as justice depends on, and descends from, the Gods, and just as we give the Gods their due, and just as human societies are best when they reflect a harmonious soul, so should human life include justice for all and each person receiving that which they are due. We can reflect on this in Aristotle’s discussion of friendship and politics in chapter eight of his Nicomachean Ethics, which is summarized nicely by Jeffrey S. Kupperman, who writes “when people are friends there is justice” (Kupperman 2014, 49). Aristotle tells us that Justice has its origin in friendship, which should be “felt mutually by members of the same species, especially among human beings, for which reason we praise philanthropists” (Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, VIII 1155a19-22). Iamblichus, building off of Aristotle, defines reciprocal justice as the “reciprocity of the equal and appropriate” (Iamblichus 1988, 46-47). This reciprocal form of justice, which is justice in its fullest sense, always guarantees a “non-diminishing, baseline-status of people, even if the status of some increases” (Kupperman 2014, 49), and always includes an element of friendship (Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, VIII 155a) which is important because it is “only in friendship that equality and reciprocity are truly possible” (Kupperman 2014, 49) (Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, VIII 156b-25) (Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, VIII 1159b25-1160a1-30). In short, justice, which derives from the Gods, is “associated with philanthropy, which is connected to friendship” (Kupperman 2014, 52).

The divine Emperor Julian also comments about social justice as service to the divine, asking how “the man who worships Zeus the God of Comrades, and who, though he sees his neighbours in need of money, does not give them even so much as a drachma, how, I say, can he think that he is worshipping Zeus aright?” (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 305). Julian wonders how one inhospitable to strangers who “wishes to sacrifice to Zeus, the God of Strangers [Zeus Xenios], even approach his temple?” (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 305). Singing hymns of praise to the divine while simultaneously turning a blind eye to strangers or the ill fortunate is sacrilege– a clear violation of Xenia, the Hellenic virtue which entails hospitality to strangers. And part of Xenia is Theoxenia– where a God can assume any form, even that of a foreigner; where one thus must be polite, kind and respectful to everyone, regardless of their appearance, origin, language or manner. This is because, as the Emperor Julian says, “it is to the humanity in a man that we give, and not to his moral character” (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 303). This common humanity lies within all of us. The divine Plato writes that the closest embodied thing to the Gods is the human form (Plato Timaeus, 44d), and it is written by the divine Emperor that when the common father and King of the All, Zeus, was setting all things in order, there fell from Him drops of sacred blood, and from these drops of divine blood arose the race of man (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 307). It, therefore, follows that we are all kin, as the Gods tell us through Plato, and that we are all descended from the Gods– and thus all common members of the same family: that of the supreme Zeus’ (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 307).

Therefore, to properly worship Zeus, the common father of all, and the Gods under Him, we must be helpful and care for those of us who are less prosperous than others. The Gods are the sources of virtue and order, and so we should serve Them by actualizing virtue and its cultivation, justice, in society. Much like how in Plato’s Republic the individual who escapes the cave willingly descends back to try freeing those still trapped inside (Plato Republic, VII 516e-517a), those of us who are servants of the Gods and more fortunate than others should willfully cooperate with the divine to promote well-being and virtue among humankind, and accomplish efforts which brings benefits to humanity, so we may all be brought closer to the Living Immortals. Thus, we cannot be opposed to helping the vulnerable, because otherwise, we are failing in our task to serve the Gods.

We can see many actions by the divine Julian, the last great leader of the Hellenic religion, which brought benefit to mankind, such as the establishment of universal charity for the less fortunate regardless of religious affiliation, the restoration and reopening of temples which had been vandalized, destroyed or shut down by extremists, the restitution of confiscated temple properties, and an edict of universal religious tolerance in the year 362 ACE. He even challenged social hierarchy by writing that it was not necessary to be rich or important to be a priest, and that even the poor and humble could be appointed, provided they possessed “love for God and love for his fellow men” (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 337) (Nicholson 1994, 2). These all could be considered edicts of “social justice” by contemporary standards.

It is through praxis that the teachings and methods of one’s beliefs (doxa) are brought into their everyday life, where they are not simply memorized, but integrated and lived in accordance to. So if you claim to worship and serve the Gods, then act on it and try to make the world better. Stand up on behalf of those who need an advocate. Listen to those who are victims of injustice and fight alongside them. Volunteer at a charity, homeless shelter, or a refugee center. For as the world becomes plagued by the cold discordance of inequality, nationalism, and intolerance, may we find light in the Gods. Because regardless of where we’re from, our upbringing, or our status and social class, we are Their children, and by promoting virtue among our fellow man, we are brought closer to Their warm embrace. For Hermes is the guide of travelers, Lord Dionysos is the protector of foreigners and slayer of tyrants, and Zeus is the bringer of justice, who punishes those who violate Xenia. And it is the eternal Gods who are far more worthy of our devotion than any nation, flag, or politician.

 

(Special thanks to Jeffrey S. Kupperman and Markos Gage!)

 

Bibliography

Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics, translated by Martin Ostwald. NY: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1962.

Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus, and Wilmer Cave. Wright. The Works of Emperor Julian. Volume II. London: Heinemann etc., 1962.

Iamblichus. The Theology of Arithmetic. Translated by Robin Waterfield. Grand Rapids, MI: Phanes Press, 1988.

Kupperman, Jeffrey S. Living Theurgy: A Course in Iamblichus’ Philosophy, Theology and Theurgy. London: Avalonia, 2014.

Majercik, Ruth. The Chaldean Oracles: Text, Translation and Commentary. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1989.

Nicholson, Oliver. The ‘Pagan Churches’ of Maximinus Daia and Julian the Apostate. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 45, pp 1-10. 1994

Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 5 & 6 translated by Paul Shorey. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1969.

Plato. The Complete Works of Plato. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. United States?: Akasha Pub., 2008.

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You cannot appropriate Gods

Isis Statue

People who claim that worshiping Gods outside your culture or ethnicity is “appropriation” are, quite simply, ludicrous individuals, often crypto if not blatant atheists, whose “metagenetics” or “racialist” view attempts to posit that the divine limit Their interactions with “foreigners” outside of “the race.” This stance can be understood as atheism because it denies that the Gods are real, independently existing entities with agencies of Their own who may engage in personal relations with people by engaging in a materialist reductionism (itself an offshoot of monotheism) which reduces the Gods to merely archetypes of “the race”– ridiculously binding the Gods as subject to a materialist social construct developed by imperialists during the Colonial era, far after most polytheisms were destroyed by many of the same powers. Deities are not mere culture nor objects– They are real, living and eternal Beings who may reveal Themselves to and call upon us to worship Them, and thus They cannot be appropriated. To deny religious experience and denounce true devotion, especially when that deity has asked for it and initiated the personal relation with the devotee, is simply atheism. “Appropriation of Gods” is not an actual issue, but rather, the real problem is the appropriation of specific cultural systems of worship such as sacred rites, methods, attire, and traditions centered around these living immortals.

I call this the “appropriation of spaces,” a term coined by Twitter user āṅgīrasa śreṣṭha (GhorAngirasa, 14 April 2018 6:11 PM). Yes, while there are spaces which are open and “amenable to manipulation and the introduction of novelties” (GhorAngirasa, 14 April 2018 6:11 PM), there are also spaces which are closed, such as mysteries specific to a particular culture or instructions which are not intended for all.

Of course, one could create their own space by thoroughly localizing the worship of a God, with local iconography, rites, liturgy, and so on, while leaving the source intact without any problem. We can see something similar in the Hellenic world, with how foreign deities such as Isis were adopted and given distinctly Graeco-Roman cultus’, or in Japan, with the adoption of various Hindu deities such as Saraswati or Indra. However, a foreign devotee cannot, for example, go to a traditional temple and ask the priest there to provide an untraditional offering to a deity because that’s what they are used to– however, they are more than free to do so at their “own home or some other privately bought/hired space” (GhorAngirasa, 14 April 2018 6:39 PM).

Likewise, simultaneously, if one wishes to worship a God in a known traditional form, using traditional rites, traditional liturgies, traditional iconography, etc., then that isn’t a problem either. There are many traditions which accept converts, even if there are preconditions one must meet before joining– but even if they are not, then the words of doctor Edward Butler, “nobody can stop me worshiping any God I like, if I’m not demanding some kind of recognition in a space which is closed to me or closed without certain preconditions I’m not willing to fulfill” (EPButler, 14 April 2018 6:54 PM). You can worship whatever Gods you choose and never be accused of committing cultural appropriation, as long that it’s in private space, and not some performative act in the eyes of the public. In this case nobody needs to know what deities you worship and how, and if you do need to talk about it in public, then “the charge of appropriation might well have something to it” (EPButler, 11 July 2016 3:47 PM).

 

(Special thanks to Edward Butler, āṅgīrasa śreṣṭha, Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa and Tamara L. Siuda)

 

Bibliography

EPButler. Twitter Post. July 11, 2016, 3:47 PM. https://twitter.com/EPButler/status/752635429892005892

EPButler. Twitter Post. April 14, 2018, 6:54 PM. https://twitter.com/EPButler/status/985335409864568832

GhorAngirasa. Twitter Post. April 14, 2018, 6:11 PM. https://twitter.com/GhorAngirasa/status/985324595187257344

GhorAngirasa, Twitter Post, April 14, 2018 6:39 PM. https://twitter.com/GhorAngirasa/status/985324595187257344

Ptahmassu, Twitter Post, April 15, 2018, 12:37 PM. https://twitter.com/Ptahmassu/status/985602916223512576

tamarasiuda, Twitter Post, April 14, 2018 7:27 PM. https://twitter.com/tamarasiuda/status/985343850024767488

tamarasiuda, Twitter Post, April 14, 2018 7:29 PM. https://twitter.com/tamarasiuda/status/985344337767817216

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Julian: The Light in the Darkness

Many years before, a man was made deputy of Western Rome on behalf of the Emperor. When the man first arrived to his newly appointed office a woman cried out “This is the man who will restore the temples of the Gods!” [1]

The man was in shock, for he was not a Galilean as his uncle Constantine the Apostate or his mother Basilina were. For this man was Julian, a Hellene. For now he was in the closet, but even though he did not know it yet, he would one day animate the woman’s word.

Now just over half a decade later, Julian received the news he wanted to hear. He swiftly begun to draft a letter to his friend Maximus of Ephesus who introduced him to the very Gods that his family abandoned decades ago.

“I worship the Gods openly and the whole mass of the troops who are returning with me worship the Gods.” penned the new Augustus, “I sacrifice oxen in public. I have offered many great public sacrifices to the Gods as thanks offerings. The Gods command me to restore Their worship in the utmost purity and I obey Them, yes and with a good will” [2].

Julian sat down his writing utensil, his hands trembling in excitement. He looked to the heavens and the Gods gave him a warm smile. Like a lighthouse guiding a ship in a storm, they led Julian on the right path and landed him on the purple. The civil war that erupted across the Empire had ended just as fast as it had begun, a bloodless conflict. Julian’s cousin, the now-deceased Emperor Constantius II who had ruled arbitrarily, the very man who years ago murdered Julian’s own father and brother, was dead, having received Thanatos’ cold embrace in a fever far away from any battlefield. Julian, the Caesar of the West, was now recognized as ruler of the East. Julian was now the sole ruler of Rome.

No longer did he have to shave. No, now he was newly bearded, with all the grace of youth. No longer did he attend a mass to listen to the sermons of a bishop. No, now he publicly embraced the message of Heracles, the begotten son of the sun. No longer did he scribe for someone else’s church. No, now he wrote for his Gods, his philosophy and his temples. In his heartfelt gratitude to the Gods who he felt love for like the family he never had, Julian legalized temples to be built again and public sacrifice to be performed once more. Hellenism was to be made the state religion of Rome again, and with the utmost piety.

Julian entered the capital city of where he was born on December 11, 361 ACE through its Golden Gate as sole Augustus of the Roman Empire. The atmosphere was dreamy and energetic. He could hear the cries of joy coming from his people, who appeared en masse to cheer their new Emperor on.

Temples were constructed and great rituals were performed. He reformed the faith and devoutly organized it. He wrote great literature and sang hymns of praise to the Gods. He both refurbished the Oracle of Delphi and even begun helping the Jewish people rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. For this is the man who was going to restore the temples of the Gods.

But his time was cut short. After a failed campaign against an aggressive Persia at his country’s borders, he was mortally wounded on June 26th and laid semi-conscious in bed for three days [3]. He was to die too young to fix the world before it would stop making sense. The light in the darkness was to fade.

An Oracle came before the semi-conscious Emperor who laid in bed. “A fiery chariot whirled among storm-clouds shall carry you to Olympus; loosed from the wretched suffering of men” spoke the wise priest, “You shall attain your Father’s halls of heavenly light, whence you have fallen and come into the body of a mortal man” [4].

It was June 28th that he was too greeted by a now-somber Thanatos. Serapis came before the dying Emperor and freed Julian from his corporeal bonds. The gentle God lifted Julian’s soul towards the Islands of the Blest; Elysium-bound, through a divine ray of light towards henosis. Helios, the King of All, hugged Julian with warm embrace.

 

“Whom the Gods love die young.”

-Menander

 

Notes

  1. Ammianus, 15.8.22
  2. Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 25
  3. Philostorgius, 7.15
  4. Smith 1995, 113
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Paganism: It’s not about “Rusticity”

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Some people will try to co-opt the word Pagan and try to define it as being “Nature-Centric,” ostensibly using academia to prove the word “Paganism” has always meant “nature-centric spirituality” via etymology. Not only do these people ignore how their contemporary understanding of “nature” is itself embroiled in Romanticist-era reactionism to urbanization and Protestant overculture, but they hold a profound misunderstanding on the word’s etymology in the context that they’re trying to use it in. And to correctly understand the Latin word’s usage, we must look to the Greek language.

In the Greek New Testament, the Pagan peoples, those ascribing to pre-Christian religions, are called ta ethnē, “the nations” (Luke 24:47, Matthew 25:32, Matthew 28:19). As such, religions of “the nations” were deemed ethnikos, as pertaining to a nation, in opposition to katholikos, “catholic” or “universal,” like Christianity. In English translations of the New Testament, the word ethnē often gets translated as “Gentiles.”

But in the Latin West, the term Paganus was coined in the religious sense by Christians in Late Antiquity. The term paganus, coming from Latin pagus, “district,” also relates to the idea of nationhood. This word continued in the French word pays, meaning “a nation” or “country.”

The “rustic” angle has been overworked by contemporary Pagans who want to justify the notion of paganisms as “earth religion.” The Latin Paganus is the equivalent of the Greek ethnikos. The argument that Christians were calling pagans “rustic” doesn’t make sense because Christians never placed much value in classical education nor on “civilization,” which were worldly and sinful. Early Christians often warned about the vanity of worldly learning, the dangers of reading too many books, etc. After all, the lives of the saints are all about people turning their back on civilization to live simply. “Rustic” is hardly an insult which fits into that worldview, and examples of it are seen plainly in Tertullian, the “father of Latin Christianity,” who wrote that “heresies are themselves instigated by philosophy,” and that “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? What between heretics and Christians? Our instructions come from “the porch of Solomon,” who had himself taught that “the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart.” Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief” (Tertullian The Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 7).

At most, the word “Pagan” may have been used in the sense of what modern evangelists call the “unreached,” i.e., people who supposedly haven’t even heard the gospel because they are “so removed from society” or “out of touch.” However, it was more likely used to mean people who refuse the “universal faith” and stick to their particular “ethnic” Gods. The “cosmopolitan” in Late Antiquity, even if not in a certain sense, was likely to have been a “Hellene,” i.e., somebody with a classical “pagan” education.

Overall, we can conclude that the usage behind Paganus wasn’t about “rusticity,” but rather reflected the ethnikos and katholikos opposition: a multiplicity of “particularistic” faiths as opposed to the one universal “catholic” faith.

 

(Special thanks to my friend Edward Butler)

 

Bibliography

“Pagan.” Merriam-Webster. Accessed April 30, 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pagan.

Tertullian. Hanover College History Department. Accessed April 30, 2018. https://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/344tert.html.

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